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Definition: Kansas from Collins English Dictionary


1 a state of the central US: consists of undulating prairie, drained chiefly by the Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri Rivers; mainly agricultural. Capital: Topeka. Pop: 2 723 507 (2003 est). Area: 213 096 sq km (82 277 sq miles) Abbreviation: Kan, Kans or with zip code KS

Summary Article: Kansas
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in central USA, bordered to the south by Oklahoma, to the west by Colorado, to the north by Nebraska, and to the east by Missouri; area 211,900 sq km/81,815 sq mi; population (2010) 2,853,118; capital Topeka. The state's nickname comes from its national flower. Situated in the Great Plains of the US Midwest, it contains the geographic centre of the 48 coterminous US states as well as the magnetic centre of the North American land mass, which serves as the reference point for all land surveys of North America and Mexico. The state also has one of the country's most precious natural resources – native prairie. Around 90% of the land is used for agriculture, and one-third of the population lives in rural areas. Kansas became more industrial from the mid-19th century, however, and manufacturing is now also an important contributor to the economy, as is the service sector. The state has rich mineral resources. Wichita is the state's largest city; other major cities include Kansas City, Lawrence, Overland Park, Shawnee, and Olathe. Leavenworth, founded in 1854, is the state's oldest city. Originally home to the Kaw and Pawnee American Indians, Kansas was explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado for Spain in 1541 and René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle for France in 1682, and became part of the USA under the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 as the 34th state.

Physical Roughly rectangular in shape, Kansas is composed of 11 main regions: Ozark Plateau, Cherokee Lowlands, Chautauqua Hills, Osage Cuesta, Glaciated Region, Flint Hills, Smoky Hills, High Plains, Arkansas River Lowlands, Red Hills, and Wellington-McPherson Lowlands. Kansas extends about 660 km/410 mi from east to west and 340 km/210 mi from north to south.

Geographically, Kansas is a fairly continuous plain, rising steadily in elevation from 210 m/700 ft above sea level in the Central Lowlands of the southeast to more than 1,200 m/4,000 ft in the Great Plains near the Colorado border. In the High Plains of the west, Mount Sunflower, on the Colorado border, is the state's highest point at 1,231 m/4,039 ft. On the High Plains, irrigation, including wells into the Ogallala Aquifer water source, are critical to farming.

In the far western area of the state the plains are marked by shallow gullies and some of the state's most notable geological formations can be found here, such as the chalk spires of Castle Rock, the unusual formations of Monument Rocks, and the deep gorges of Horse Thief Canyon. Much of Kansas was once covered by glaciers and used to be the floor of an inland sea; deposits of soil and organic matter from streams feeding the sea gradually built up the land, producing one of the most fertile soils in the world, as well as a rich source of prehistoric fossil finds.

The northeast of the state is hilly and forested and the southeast, near the foothills of the Ozark Plateau, is largely covered in scrub. The Gypsum Hills in south-central Kansas are a rich source of that mineral.

The state drains generally eastward to the Mississippi through the systems of the Arkansas and Kansas rivers. The tributaries of the Kansas River, all of which are in northern Kansas, are the Big Blue, the Republican, the Saline, the Smoky Hill, and Solomon. The Arkansas River enters the state from Colorado and flows through southwestern and south-central Kansas, then through Oklahoma and Arkansas before joining the Mississippi. Its tributaries are the Cimarron, the Verdigris, and the Neosho.

Kansas has a temperate climate, but one with great extremes between summer and winter temperatures.

FeaturesDodge City, in southwestern Kansas, was settled in 1872 and gained notoriety as a lawless frontier town on the Santa Fe Trail; its famous Front Street has been restored and the Boot Hill Museum there contains artefacts and objects from the town's pioneer days. At Larned is the Santa Fe Trail Center, and in Hannover the Pony Express station.

The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is located in Atchison. Near Kansas City, the Shawnee Methodist Mission and Indian Manual Labor School (built in 1839 to teach English to the Shawnee American Indians) served twice as the temporary territorial capital of Kansas (1854–56).

Located at the end of the Chisholme Trail, the cowtown of Abilene once developed a reputation as ‘the wickedest and wildest town in the West’ and there are replicas of its late-1800s saloons, gambling establishments, and hotels in its Old Abilene Town and Museum. The Dickinson County Historical Museum illustrates life on the plains during Westward expansion. Abilene is also known for its historic mansions representing Victorian and Georgian styles of architecture, including Leebold Mansion, Seelye Mansion and Museum, and Kirby House. The Eisenhower Center at Abilene has a museum and library with documents and memorabilia of the life and career of the 34th president of the USA. Abilene, once a stop on the Chisholm Trail, was Eisenhower's boyhood home and he is also buried there.

The frontier outposts of Fort Scott (built in the 1840s) and Fort Larned, a prairie fort built in 1868 to protect travellers on the Santa Fe Trail, are preserved as National Historic Sites. Many US army forts were built on the Kansas plains during the Westward expansion in the 1800s. Most of these forts survived only a short time but eight of them (including Scott and Larned) remained active and played an important role in Westward expansion and the government's Indian policy.

The central role Kansas's statehood played in the years leading up to the Civil War can be experienced at the Constitution Hall State Historic Site in Lecompton, where a proslavery constitution was drafted in 1857.

Kansas's reputation for innovation in early 20th-century aviation manufacturing is celebrated in the Kansas Aviation Museum, located in the original art deco terminal building of historic Wichita Municipal Airport. Other museums and attractions include the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Visitor's Center at Overland Park.

Culture The state-run Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which superseded the Kansas Arts Commission in 2012, was established to encourage the creative industries sector of the Kansas economy. Wichita and Topeka also support many cultural and artistic activities, as do colleges and universities in smaller communities throughout Kansas. Wichita has a number of art museums, a cultural centre with two theatres, and an exhibition hall. The University of Kansas at Lawrence has an outstanding museum of natural history and an art museum. The town of Wamego, near Manhattan, is home to the Oz Museum, devoted to L Frank Baum's children's novel The Wizard of Oz and ensuing stage and film adaptations.

Kansas architecture includes examples of Georgian, Victorian, Renaissance, Prairie School, and art deco styles. The Henry J Allen House in Wichita was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915.

Traditional crafts, such as quilting, are supported by numerous societies and exhibitions and may be seen at the University of Kansas's Spencer Museum of Art.

The Wichita Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest arts organizations in Kansas, while its Metropolitan Ballet is known for its Summer Ballet in the Park. Topeka also has its own symphony orchestra.

Kansas has many communities whose inhabitants are mainly Russian, German, Czech, or Scandinavian descendants of the earliest settlers who first came to Kansas after the Civil War. Mennonites in Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties established the one-room schools that were common features on the Kansas landscape. The Mennonite Heritage Museum in Goessel has preserved many examples of this early education tradition. Volga Germans settled in Ellis, Russell, and Rush counties, where St Joseph's Kirche, a Catholic cathedral, still retains stained glass made by German artists.

Some of these immigrant communities hold festivals that celebrate the traditions and culture of their European ancestry. In the small community of Lindsborg, the biennial folk festival Svensk Hyllingfest honours the Swedish pioneers who settled the town, and features Swedish costumes, traditional food, folk dances, and arts and crafts displays by local artisans. The town of Wilson has a Czech festival each year.

Other annual cultural festivals include the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, the Winfield Bluegrass Festival, and the ten-day Kansas State Fair at Hutchinson. Southern influences, along with the influx of former slaves and Europeans, contributed to Kansas's blues and jazz traditions, which are celebrated by the Topeka Jazz Festival, Great Bend Jazz Festival, and the Richard Wright Jazz Archive at the University of Kansas.

The impact of the temperance movement on Kansas state politics and society is evidenced today by private clubs, to which alcohol consumption is still restricted.

GovernmentKansas's state constitution Kansas has drafted four constitutions in its history: the Topeka Constitution (1855), the Lecompton Constitution (1857), the Leavenworth Constitution (1858), and the Wyandotte Constitution (1859), under which Kansas was finally admitted to the Union in 1861 and by which it is governed today.

Structure of state government The Kansas legislature consists of a Senate whose 40 members serve four-year terms and House of Representatives whose 125 members serve two-year terms. Kansas sends two senators and four representatives to the US Congress. It has six electoral votes in presidential elections.

The constitutional offices of the Kansas executive branch include the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, commissioner of insurance, state treasurer, and members of the board of education, all popularly elected to four-year terms. Republican Sam Brownback took the governorship in January 2011.

The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, with one chief justice and six justices; a court of appeals; and 31 district courts. There are 105 counties and 627 incorporated cities.

Economy The state is well positioned for commerce, being in the centre of the USA. Kansas manufactures transport equipment, industrial machinery, electrical equipment, and fabricated metals. Three major aircraft manufacturers are located in Wichita: Spirit Aerosystems, Bombadier Learjet, and Cessna. Non-durable goods include food products, printing and publishing products, chemicals and rubber, and plastic goods.

Business services and health services are the largest components of the service economy, along with the state's finance, insurance, and real estate sectors.

Agriculture still comprises a significant portion of the state's income. Kansas is the USA's largest producer of wheat, while corn, sorghum, soybeans, feed grains, and beef and dairy livestock are other primary commodities.

Important fuel minerals are oil, gas, and coal. Non-fuel mineral commodities include crushed stone, cement, helium, and salt.

HistoryIndigenous inhabitants Kansas was home to the native Kaw (Kansas) and Pawnee Plains Indians, as well as many emigrant American Indians after 1930. The Siouan-speaking Kaw established villages in central Kansas along the Kansas and Saline rivers. The Pawnee, who spoke a Caddoan language, claimed the entire Platte River basin in Nebraska as well as the lands south to the Kansas River, where they hunted buffalo.

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado encountered these tribes in 1541 when he explored the region for Spain. René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle explored the region in 1682, claiming all lands of the Mississippi basin for France. Contact with Europeans introduced disease, which reduced the American Indian population, and the gun, which both tribes adopted for hunting purposes.

Kansas was ceded to the USA in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The opening in 1821 of the Santa Fe Trail brought increasing traffic across the plains. This met with opposition from the tribes, and in response more forts were built to protect commerce along the trail. The first permanent settlements were forts Leavenworth (1827), Scott (1842), and Riley (1853), outposts to protect the Santa Fe and Oregon trails.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 moved more than 80,000 individuals from tribal lands east of the Mississippi to lands in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. Migrant Indian tribes included the Cherokee, Osage, Missouri, Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Sac, Fox, and Delaware. The region was regarded as essentially Indian Territory until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) opened it to white settlement.

Bleeding Kansas The state rapidly became known as Bleeding Kansas during the 1850s, as the scene of bloody warfare between proslavery settlers (‘freestaters’) and antislavery settlers, anticipating the widespread conflict of the American Civil War.

In 1856, proslavery forces attacked and damaged Lawrence, freestate headquarters, because its residents harboured runaway slaves. John Brown then led a series of retaliatory assaults against proslavery forces, culminating in the Battle of Black Jack, in which Henry C Pate and his proslavery forces surrendered.

Civil War Kansas's statehood became a national issue in 1857 with a proslavery constitution (Lecompton Constitution) that sparked fierce national debate and was a subject of the Lincoln–Douglas debates. Talk of secession in southern states increased after this constitution was defeated at the national level.

In 1859, the Wyandotte Constitution, a nonslavery constitution written by freestaters, was ratified by the US House of Representatives but rejected by the Senate, which had a proslavery majority. It was under this constitution that Kansas eventually became the 34th state in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Two-thirds of Kansas's male population fought for the Union. The most famous battle on Kansas's soil was the Battle of Mine Creek in 1864, which ended with a Union victory.

Violence continued in Kansas throughout the 1860s as indigenous and migrant American Indian populations were squeezed by white settlement. Many American Indians in Kansas were removed during the next decade. The Kaw were moved onto a reservation on the Indian Territory in June 1873.

Prohibition By 1872, two railways crossed Kansas, and such towns as Dodge City, Wichita, Newton, and Abilene filled with cowboys and cattle, becoming hubs for the cattle drives from Texas.

The temperance movement gained support during this period, when cow towns became associated with saloons and gambling. Activities of such groups as the Kansas Temperance Union and the Women's Christian Temperance Union led to the state's 1880 Prohibition amendment. Kansas remained dry until 1948.

Immigration Hardy winter wheat brought to the state by Russian Mennonites established Kansas as one of the leading producers of wheat. Other immigrants came to Kansas during this period, among them the Volga Germans and Swedes. An exodus of former slaves from southern states, referred to as ‘exodusters’, settled in Kansas from 1877. Nicodemus became the first all-black community west of the Mississippi River.

20th-century history The 20th century saw the birth of Kansas's aviation industry, with the exploits of Albin K Longren, aviation manufacturer Walter H Beech, Clyde Cessna, and William Lear, who made Wichita a centre for aircraft manufacturing from 1917. Kansas pilot Amelia Earhart captured national and international attention.

Kansas developed a reputation as a progressive state, being the first to introduce workers' compensation, in 1910, and it allowed women to vote in 1912.

Coal was being mined extensively in southeastern Kansas, and the discovery of helium in Dexter (1903) and oil near El Dorado (1915) further enhanced the mining industry. Though Kansas was hard hit by the Great Depression and dust bowl soil erosion of the 1930s, the aircraft, oil, and gas industries provided the basis for economic recovery and expansion. Kansas industry benefited from World War II.

In 1948, Kansas repealed its Prohibition amendment, which had been part of the constitution since 1880.

Brown v. Board of Education Kansas was the location for one of the earliest struggles in the civil-rights movement. In 1954 the US Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case ruled that Topeka's segregated schools were unconstitutional, violating the Fourteenth Amendment. School segregation continued to be an issue even into the 1980s.

The antiwar movement of the 1970s affected university campuses, and Kansas continued its involvement in national politics in the 1980s and 1990s with the presidential candidacy of US senator Bob Dole. Although the Republican party dominates the state legislature, there are divisions between its socially moderate and socially conservative wings.

Famous peoplesport Gale Sayers (1943– ), football player; Maurice Greene (1974– ), athlete

the arts Edgar Lee Masters (1869–1950), poet; Buster Keaton (1896–1966), comedian and actor; John Stuart Curry (1897–1946), painter; Aaron Douglas (1899–1979), painter; Stan Kenton (1912–1979), jazz musician; Gordon Parks (1912–2006), writer and director; William Inge (1913–1973), playwright; Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000), poet; Charlie Parker (1920–1955), jazz musician; Dennis Hopper (1936–2010), actor; Kirstie Alley (1951– ), actor; Melissa Etheridge (1961– ), musician

science William C Menninger (1899–1966), psychiatrist; Earl Sutherland (1915–1974), Nobel Prize-winning physiologist; Joe Engle (1932– ), astronaut; Ron Evans (1933–1990), astronaut; Steve Hawley (1951– ), astronaut

society and education Damon Runyon (1884–1946), journalist; Amelia Earhart (1898–1937), aviator; Eugene Smith (1918–1978), photojournalist; Jim Lehrer (1934– ), journalist

economics Walter P Chrysler (1875–1940), industrialist; Delano Lewis (1938– ), lawyer and business executive

politics and law David J Brewer (1837–1910), Supreme Court justice; Charles Curtis (1860–1936), 31st vice president of the USA; Carl Hatch (1889–1963), politician; Charles E Whittaker (1901–1973), jurist; Bob Dole (1923– ), politician; Gary Hart (1936– ), politician.


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